House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway said today his committee will begin work on the next farm bill within the next eight weeks, noting that he wants to get it on the House floor this year.
Conaway announced at the beginning of a farm bill listening session in San Angelo, Texas, that Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue would not attend the session as he had planned because President Donald Trump had called a cabinet meeting to introduce Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly as his new chief of staff.
Then Conaway said that work on the farm bill will start “over the next eight weeks or so.”
He did not elaborate on that statement, but after three hours of listening to farm leaders, Conaway added that he wants to bring the bill to the floor of the House in the “fourth quarter” of 2017 because he disliked the turmoil of extensions.
The 2014 farm bill expires on Sept. 30, 2018.
Conaway also noted that Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said last week that he also would like to write the farm bill in 2017 and that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., had said “the sooner the better.”
Cotton was the most prominent farm product at the hearing, but almost everything in the farm bill came up at one point or another during a true listening session in which the Texas leaders made statements for more than three hours and the members of the committee asked no questions.
When the leaders had completed their statements, Conaway said that he and House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., would hold a short news conference and that the members of the committee would speak individually with the attendees.
Besides Conaway and Peterson, committee members who attended the event included Reps. Jodey Arrington, R-Texas, David Rouzer, R-N.C., Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., Rodney Davis, R-Ill., Roger Marshall, R-Kan. and Darren Soto, D-Fla.
A series of cotton growers and other farm leaders urged the committee to include cotton in the commodity title of the program. Cotton was taken out in 2014 to satisfy a World Trade Organization case the United States had lost to Brazil because a panel decided that the U.S. cotton program had caused damage to Brazilian farmers because it interfered with world markets.
Eddie McBride, president and CEO of the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce, urged the committee to take action “before the entire industry is lost.”
The farm leaders also called for the continuation of crop insurance and commodity, conservation and foreign market development and promotion programs.
More on the Farm Bill
But the hearing also showed the diversity of interest in the farm bill in Texas.
A series of Texas anti-hunger and nutrition leaders urged the committee to continue the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as SNAP or food stamps, and the federal commodity distribution programs.
Representatives of organic agriculture, farmers markets and the nascent U.S. hemp and olive industries also asked that their interests not be ignored in the farm bill.
Conaway ended the session, as he has frequently ended other events, by telling the attendees that it is vital for the United States to maintain the high moral ground if the country is to continue to self-govern.
Conaway said that 57 million babies have been “killed” in 44 years and that the breakup of the family has contributed to the country’s moral decline.
Conaway said many of the speakers had noted their desire to pass on their family farm operations to their children, but that in order for life to continue in the United States, individuals must do it by “living a code” and that his is that “Jesus Christ is my personal savior.”
Three additional “Conversations in the Field” listening sessions have been scheduled:
- Thursday — 10:30 a.m., Minnesota Farmfest, Gilfillan Estates, Morgan, Minn.
- Saturday — Noon, Modesto, Calif. (Location to be announced.)
- August 30 — 9:30 a.m., Farm Progress Show, Decatur, Ill.